A tale of two droughts

Two regions in the world are experiencing severe drought, and yet the outcomes in terms of human suffering are dramatically different. Do you know where these droughts are taking place? And can you tell what distinguishes one from the other?

Drought 1: It began in the fall of 2010, yet it persists one year later. Forecasters say there is a 50-percent chance that weather patterns will not change for the next 12 months. In the last century, this region of the world has experienced its driest 12 months ever recorded. Extreme and exceptional drought covers more than 90 percent of the land. Combined with record-high temperatures, the drought is having an unprecedented impact on the region’s economy and the livelihood of its residents. Economists estimate that $5 billion has been lost as crops and cattle are lost to the hot and arid conditions. To top it off, wildfires have destroyed another 3 million acres of land.

Drought 2: Another drought elsewhere in the world looks similar. For roughly two years, rainfall has been minimal. The rains that typically provide water for crops were just 30 percent of the average rainfall in recent years. Cattle and crop losses are roughly $300 million and have been devastating for the region’s families. Recognizing the conditions, farmers shifted away from their traditional cash crops and toward less profitable but quick-maturing food. But many are still unable to provide an income or even food for themselves or their families.

Both droughts are linked to variations in ocean temperature caused by La Niña. Both regions are agricultural, raising cattle and a variety of crops. Both groups of people have made rational choices in response to weather conditions completely out of their control.

Maybe you have an idea where at least one of these droughts is taking place.

In one region -- Texas and other states in the U.S. South -- no one is starving. The federal government has paid out nearly $700 million in disaster relief to farmers. The Department of Agriculture has provided more than $100 million to livestock producers. Tens of millions of dollars have been made available for loans to farmers and for conservation efforts. Over the last two years, the government has paid out more than $2.6 billion in disaster assistance.

All this assistance from the government is not enough to fully alleviate the financial losses from the drought in the South. Prices of food will probably rise for U.S. consumers as fewer crops and livestock make it to market. More importantly, family farms will go out of business, changing the agricultural landscape in the region for decades to come. The assistance provided to these farmers and ranchers is much-needed and greatly deserved. I thank God that I live in a country that is prepared and capable of responding to disasters like this. Some things may be broken with our government, but compared to others, it does of fine job of caring for its citizens.

Yet the 12 million people in Somalia and surrounding countries, who -- through no fault of their own -- are suffering from the same causes, have a much more devastating outcome. Because of a lack of basic government services -- such as protection from a rebel terrorist group -- aid to the area has been hampered. The East Africans suffering from catastrophic famine deserve a response equal to what our government is providing farmers and ranchers in the U.S. South. Yet thousands of people every day are fleeing the areas where the famine has hit hardest, traveling for days without food and water, in order to seek assistance at overcrowded and minimally supplied refugee camps.

When disaster strikes here in the United States, whether in the form of a hurricane or tornado, an earthquake or a drought, we are wealthy enough and have the government capacity and private institutions to provide quick relief and then help people rebuild.

The Somalis fleeing famine are not so fortunate. Instead, they are forced to rely on the efforts of the international community. It may be a long time before the Somali people enjoy a government that can adequately care for its citizens. In the meantime, I believe we have the same moral responsibility before God to care for our neighbors in Somalia as we do for our neighbors in Texas.

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World Vision partners with USAID and the Ad Council on the FWD campaign to bring attention to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

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    Comments

    It bothers me that organizations pit famine and poverty in one place against another. Pain is pain, no matter where one lives. Why not simply help both? Big difference also is American $$ go further in foreign countries, as here in the States, thus it requires more here then there.

    I would have to agree with Mary Ellen. As a Texas native, I see first hand the utter devastation the drought is causing, especially to our agricultural economy. No, people are not starving here, but countless farmers and ranchers are watching helplessly as their hard work and sources of income dry up.

    While I agree that we, as Christians, have a moral obligation to care for our neighbors in Africa, the US government does not. By comparing US federal aid (aka tax payer dollars)for its own citizens to financial aid freely given by willing persons, you have just entered a lengthy, multifaceted debate. A reminder to count our blessings in times of distress, and remember our brothers and sisters who are not as fortunate even still may have proved to be a better direction to make your point.

    Minimizing the struggle in Texas does nothing to incite action for East Africa. As a long-time supporter of World Vision and child sponsor, helping my neighbor stems from Christ's love in me, not from a sloppy comparison of suffering.

    I agree with Candace and Mary Ellen - it's not governments responsibility to "take care of people", that role belongs to the church, and to individuals. Government's God given role is to provide the rule of law so it's citizens can provide for themselves and each other.

    We can't forget that the free market system that has made us wealthy, is also what enables us to help drought victims in both Texas and Somalia.

    Hurt in one place is the same as that in the other. Is that really an argument here? Consider this. A farmer losing everything he's worked hard for IS NOT experiencing the same kind of grief that a mother is...burying every child she has had during the journey she walks in this heat, in search of water and food. And, the government is very much involved in both places. Only, in the US, they would not cut off aid to those who are being starved to death...as is the case in Somalia. Christian organizations ARE trying to provide relief. The Somalian government opened doors in the 90's. Why not now? For Somalia, it's a tragedy used as a weapon of mass destruction. For Texas, it's a tragedy that will receive as much support as possible. Similar droughts, two very different tragedies.

    Very well put. I too believe we have a moral obligation to help these people in Somalia. I'm trying to do my part by contributing to various organiztions. Of course, I think my biggest contribution is prayer to our gracious God.

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